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Game story: Marquez fuels DGN comeback win over Hinsdale Central

By Bobby Narang, 10/12/23, 12:45AM CDT


Junior provides offense in 2-1 Senior Night victory

DOWNERS GROVE – The Downers Grove North sideline erupted following the whistle after 80 minutes of play Tuesday night.

That seemed unlikely just 51.7 seconds earlier when visiting Hinsdale Central had seemingly tied the game on a goal by Martin Montoya, which led to a big groan from the crowd. The person at the press box console added the goal on the scoreboard and most on hand assumed the West Suburban Conference Silver Division game was likely headed to overtime.

Downers Grove North coach Rafal Slomba was not among them. He had his eyes on the assistant referee with his flag up.

“I saw our backline stepped up a couple of yards. Then their outside mid was offsides and the ref called it right away,” he said.

When the final buzzer sounded, Downers Grove North senior Ben Llewellyn joined the big celebration, jumping up and down with a teammate to punctuate the quality 2-1 home win that closed out the Trojans regular-season and notched the Senior Night victory.

Junior Kobi Marquez, the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match, sparked the comeback victory with a goal in each half to push his season total to five goals.

“It’s a great feeling to win this game,” Marquez said. “It’s a big game, so you want to play your hardest and we did that. We have to keep training and can give us momentum going into our Downers Grove South game next week.”

The Trojans open the Class 3A state tournament against the Mustangs next week.

Slomba said it was a gratifyng victory.

“I want to credit all 12 of our seniors,” said Slomba, who moved to lead Downers Grove North from Richards this season. “It’s not easy coming into the season with a new coach, definitely someone they are not used to. But they are the backbone of this team and the reason why we’ve had a successful season. Hopefully, we can get this program going in the right direction.

“This was one of those games that’s definitely circled on our schedule. Hinsdale Central is one of the powerhouse programs in the state for the last 15-20 years to when I was in high school. Getting the win against them before the playoffs will help grow our confidence. Give credit to them for being well-coached and organized. 

“We did a good job overall. Sometimes in these games you need a little luck and we got that. The chances we had we were able to put away.

“Our talk at halftime was to make sure we kept Luca Davies under wraps and try to contain him as much as possible. When kids are that talented, they will get their chances, so that’s when we need our goalie to make some saves. He made some great saves.”

Longtime Hinsdale Central coach Michael Wiggins joked that he would’ve loved to play another overtime game in a conference season full of them. The Red Devils (10-5-3, 3-3-0) have won league overtime matches against Lyons and Glenbard West and lost to Oak Park and River Forest, and York.

The visitors walked away frustrated after the defeat. They took 19 shots. They drilled shots toward the net in a variety of ways to keep Downers Grove North goalkeeper Will Barnett on his toes.

Yet Hinsdale Central only connected on a Luca Davies’ header in that gave them a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.

Barnett was outstanding. He had four saves in the first 48 minutes but tallied an additional five in a hectic final 32 minutes.

“We’ve had our fair share of (overtime) games,” Wiggins said. “We’ve had four OT games in only six conference games. Two of them went into penalty kicks. This is what makes our conference so tough. You have to give credit to them. They worked hard and busted through every ball. 

“I didn’t think we were that bad. We are creating chances and building, but it’s just unfortunate they finished at the end. We have this schedule and play some really talented programs. We will be alright and get into our last game with a continued eye toward cleaning some things up.

"For us, everything we do is in preparation for the postseason. We have an eye for what’s coming next week, and it’s a process. We have some very talented players who work hard and are enthusiastic and bring a good spirit and energy. I wish our guys could get a reward for their effort tonight. We had some unfortunate bounces, but you have to move past it.”

Davies, a senior midfielder, equaled his tally from last fall with his 19th goal of the season Tuesday night.

He has a shot at the program’s single-season record of 24, which was set by Jack Smithson in 2003. Davies ranks third all-time in goals scored with 38.

Wiggins said Davies has become an all-time great player for the program in a relatively short time.

“Luca is climbing the all-time records in the program, and this is only his second and last year playing on varsity,” Wiggins said. “What he’s done in that short amount of time is nothing short of remarkable. Again, he came up with a big moment to put us ahead to start things off tonight. He’s done that multiple times over the last two years.”

“I’m quite happy with this season,” Davies said. “Last season I had 19 goals, and now I have 19 again. I can see an upward track, so I’m very happy about that. To see myself improve statistically, I’m very happy about that. I just feel more confident on the ball. I feel I can take more players on and can take a shot when I want to. That’s what I’ve improved on.”

Davies added losing the second-to-last regular-season game is not an ideal way to head into Thursday’s tough West Suburban Conference cross-over test against Addison Trail.

“We’re obviously very disappointed, but you have to give credit to them,” Davies said. “Coming into this game, we really wanted to win because conference games are important.  We could’ve gotten second place with a win, but they really performed well and brought out energy and passion and ended up scoring the second goal they needed.

“Right now, from a solid season after an early loss to Young, we’ve regrouped and had a good streak. We had a few issues, and have a few right now. But I think we will regroup and have to come into every game thinking it could be our last and have to play with 100 percent intensity and passion -- play hard every second of every game.”

As the Red Devils lamented missed opportunities, Downers Grove North’s postgame was a celebration filled with the contentment of a solid victory over a worthy opponent. The home team has a lengthy break until opening the playoffs on Oct, 17 against cross-town foe Downers Grove South in a Class 3A Lyons Regional semifinal.

In this year's edition of  the annual Downers Grove Derby, Downers Grove North (9-9-1, 2-4-x) beat Downers Grove South 2-1 Sept. 28.

Marquez was the hero Tuesday, scoring the equalizer on a header after an assist from Llewellyn in the 35th minute. While Hinsdale Central had eight shots in the first 23 minutes of the second half, Marquez scored the winning goal with 5:15 left in regulation.

“It was a great cross by Ben Llewellyn on the right side,” Marquez said of his first goal. “The throw-in came, and he got a great cross to me. The second goal was a great assist by Riley Botha. He flicked it back and got the ball to me.”

Looking ahead to the state tournament, Slomba said the second meeting between the two local rivals will be another battle.

“We did play them in the regular-season and did beat them, so they will come out that much hungrier,” Slomba said. “The last game we played against them had an atmosphere that was absolutely amazing. I expect this one will be double that. We have to work on some things that didn’t look so good against Hinsdale Central and then get ready for Tuesday.”

Downers Grove North senior midfielder Ryan Wilson praised his team.

“This is a big one for us,” Wilson said. “In the pregame, it’s always coming in thinking we will have to work really hard, and that’s what we did. We rebounded after giving up a goal 15 minutes into the game. I was proud of how we regrouped and got that goal right before half to get some momentum. Our goalkeeper, Will Barnett, really stood his ground in the net and made so many saves. I was really proud of our backline for not giving up easy shots. We have to take this one and move forward to our regional match against Downers Grove South.”

Downers Grove North junior forward Daniel Graham echoed Wilson’s words about building off the win.

“The (DGS) game is always a big one,” Graham said. “We had a close game earlier this season. If we come out like we did against Hinsdale Central, there’s no reason we can’t win. We had a couple of rough games, but this was a good win. We turned it up and played good. We have to keep this momentum and practice throughout the week and focus on our next game.

“I think we worked well as a team, not doing too much and played together. Luck was part of today. Kobi had a great game and scored two great goals.”


Starting lineups

Hinsdale Central
GK: Martin Contreras
D: Oliver Pohlenz
D: Michael DiTomasso
D: Faris Badwan
MF: Balys Zamalaitis
MF: Austen Szurgot
MF: Ardit Abdullai
MF: Martin Montoya
F: Matthew Gantar
F: Robbie Rocque
F: Luca Davies

Downers Grove North
GK: Will Barnett
D: Conor Shewe
D: Will Beaty
D: Mantas Palubinskas
D: Riley Botha
MF: Ty Peboontom
MF: Jimmy Harkness
MF: Ryan Wilson
MF: Ben Llewellyn
F: Oliver Davies
F: Daniel Graham

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Kobi Marquez, jr., MF, Downers Grove North

Scoring summary

First half
Hinsdale Central: Davies (Abduallai), 13’
Downers Grove North: Marquez (Llewellyn), 35’

Second half
Downers Grove North Marquez (Botha), 75’